Posts tagged ‘Rise Of Legends’

May 5, 2013


As the projects get bigger, the budgets expand and more people’s jobs are on the line, you jump through more hoops as a composer. That’s not necessarily bad. It just means that the iterative process becomes longer.

When I was hired to create the music score for Rise Of Legends (ROL), I had already proven my composing and producing skills on many other games. This game had the fortunate circumstance of having a big budget for the music score. While I did have a budget for live musicians on Rise Of Nations, it was not big enough to hire live recording session musicians for every part. But as you gain more experience, people tend to gain trust in your abilities.

When you get to the point of managing a large music budget, there are lots of checks and balances that go along with it, every step of the way. So in ROL, I didn’t just start composing full-length music cues. I was presented with a rough script and concept art that depicted the direction the game was going. I was then asked to come up with a number of short themes that might support that direction.

This can be a double-edged sword for a composer, or any other creative person. On the plus side, you have an opportunity to come up with a lot of ideas in a short format that might work in the project and actually help steer its direction. And when the creative spark hits other team members in the project, great things can happen. But the down side is that the creative flow is interrupted. Composing is often a matter of following your gut emotions and interpreting them in musical form. Those emotions can be lost if you stop, then go back to finish the piece that you started weeks or months ago.

While researching this blog, I took a listen to the initial themes that I came up with for ROL. It was interesting to hear that one actually made it into the game as written. The rest of these themes were used as a starting point to create music cues that ended up in the game. There are other short themes out of the original 15 that were never used because the emotional connection to that feeling had passed and couldn’t be restored.

But you never know when listening to those short cues which ideas might reignite a fire in the future. Always press that “record” button. Always save those files. Because you never know when they will inspire you to finish your original thought.

This YouTube video is a montage of my favorite short themes that I created electronically for ROL in my studio in Woodinville, WA.

February 19, 2013


Sometimes hard work and noble intentions aren’t enough to bridge the gap between musical genres. It seemed to work between other genres, so why not bring a game soundtrack to a classical music concert stage? Then again, maybe it really was a great idea, but the circumstances made it impossible to pull off.

About three years ago, my old friend, Maestro Gabriel Sakakeeny, contacted me with the idea of arranging a long piece of music using my work from the “Rise Of Nations” and “Rise Of Legends” video games. He suggested that I use a sonata allegro form because it has been used for hundreds of years in classical music. He was the Founder and Music Director of the American Philharmonic – Sonoma County and wanted to include the piece in one of the orchestra’s concerts.

From this challenge, I quickly realized that this could be yet another opportunity to learn and grow and take my career into a whole new direction.

But I was deep in the throes of looking for a paying job to support my family and I had no experience in classical music since college. Despite that, I started wondering if this could be a path that would be rewarding and far-reaching. After all, I have never backed down from trying things that might be considered unconventional. New paths had sometimes paid off for me throughout my career.

But sometimes no matter how hard you try, things just don’t turn out the way you plan. Such is the story of an ill-fated effort to bring my “Rise Of Nations Overture” into the classical music realm.

I spent months in my studio sifting through music, choosing what would be included, editing, arranging and orchestrating and ultimately created the entire 8-minute, 36-second piece inside my computer. It was the philharmonic orchestra arrangement of my work on those games. I had to leave a lot of music out, due to its diverse, ethnic nature and unique instrumentation. But I knew that it would not be practical to bring in soloists playing rare and unique instruments from all over the globe, so the overture focused on the orchestral portion of the scores.

The world premiere performances were to be at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, California on February 19th and 20th, 2011. Then the reality of our undertaking became an issue. The community orchestra did not have the instrumentation required to pull off the piece. So my portion of the concert was cancelled.

Gabriel then booked the piece at a high level, private venue in Monte Rio, California in May of 2011. I was invited as a guest and was treated like royalty. But the concert was scheduled to take place outdoors and a thunderstorm turned the venue into mud. That concert was cancelled, as well, and rescheduling it turned out to be impossible.

While this piece of music has never been performed live, I have learned volumes about my craft. And even when you go into a project with all your heart and soul, things can go wrong.

Everyone in creative fields, whether they admit it or not, has gone through challenges and failures that may not be their own fault. Don’t take it to heart, learn from your mistakes and your successes — and always give it your all.